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When Our Love is Conditional

My husband bought me a beautiful handcrafted, bamboo paddle board for Mother’s day last year.

I literally shook with excitement!

Paddle boarding is my favourite summer activity. I enjoy tranquil moments to paddle and pray, floating around and jumping in with the kids, and chatting with friends as we glide along the water.

But, as much as I claim to love it, I realize it’s all on my terms.

  • I don’t go out when it’s windy.

  • Definitely not when it’s raining.

  • If the water is choppy I don’t go.

  • I prefer to use my board and not someone else’s.

  • I like to take my same path around the island, not across the open water.

  • I’ll make the 5km trek to the tunnels at the end of the lake, but only in the morning when the water is calm and we can make it back before the wind picks up.

Though I enthusiastically declare my love for paddle boarding, I have specific stipulations.

Sounds like our love, doesn’t it?

Our love is fickle.

It’s like tracing the jagged peaks of a mountain landscape, jutting up and down with our mood or with what happened in our day.

From childhood we’re picking petals off the flower—“he loves me, he loves me not”— to discover our true love, but now it’s a haphazard guess to whether or not we feel loving today. Emotions often dictate how we respond.

Inherently bent toward selfishness, we love ourselves above all else and seek first to meet our own needs before those of others. This is why Scripture commands us to persevere in love, because our natural inclination is to first and foremost love ourselves.

Our love is frugal.

Economical living is a hallmark of my Mennonite culture. Offer any form of free food and we’re there. Offer a giveaway and the entire community signs up. When there’s a sale, watch out for a pacifist skirmish—you’ll have to be first in line or you’ll miss out completely.

But the same way we’re close-fisted with our pennies, so it is with our affections. We mistakenly believe love is something we earn. Therefore, if we must work to attain the love and approval of others, surely they must have to do the same to receive ours.

Our love is finite.

We are merely human, so our ability to love has limits. Unable to be in every place or with every person at one time creates a constant bombardment of decisions about how we will spend our time.This is challenging, because it requires us to have clear, intentional priorities, when in reality we’re often swept away by circumstances that make those decisions for us.

Our shortcomings are not hard to find, but let these truths linger.

A.W. Tozer reminds us, “until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life.”1

It’s necessary to feel discomfort and grieve our loveless hearts. Our hearts need tenderizing like lime juice marinating steaks. The sourness and acidity break down toughened strands and our minds must remember our depravity so we can treasure the most savoury words of the gospel:

But God.

“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4–5).

How wonderful is the goodness of God! For, “in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9–10).

God demonstrates his love for us in Christ. While we were undeserving and rebelling against Him. He gave Himself as a peace offering, enfolding us into the safety and shelter of His grace. He makes us new, restores our soul, adopts us as His children, dresses us in garments of righteousness, and brings us into the kingdom of Light.

Let yourself pause here again to fill your heart and mind with the wonder of the gospel.

Though our love is fickle, His is faithful and unfailing.

Though our love is frugal, His is selfless and sacrificial.

Though our love is finite, His love is perfect and abounding.

Let us “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1). Praise God because whatever you face right now, His love carries you. Our relationships aren’t perfect, but He is the good teacher, lovingly showing us how to restore them. Circumstances at work feel trying, but His love clarifies our purpose. When we face difficult decisions and feel insecure, He promises to give wisdom when we ask.

We receive so much from Him, let’s repent of our loveless hearts and ask the Spirit to make us better lovers. Let’s make loving like Jesus one of our highest priorities, for “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 15:12).

I love how Phil Ryken puts it: “love is the way we live for God even when we do not happen to feel particularly loving.”2 It’s our joy and privilege to sit first before Him, soaking in the truths of His great love, that we may pour it out on others.

1 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 86

2 Phil Ryken, Loving the Way Jesus Loves, 36



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